In 1972, after 15
years of research Prof. Anne Kilmer (professor of Assyriology,
University of California, and a curator at the Lowie Museum of
Anthropology at Berkeley) transcribed one of the oldest known
pieces of music notation in the world.
Clay tablets relating
to music, containing the cuneiform signs of the "Hurrian"
language, had been excavated in the early 1950s at the Syrian
city of ancient Ugarit in what is now modern Ras Shamra. One text
contained a complete hymn, both words and music and is the oldest
known preserved music notation in the world.
Prof. Kilmer transcribed
this piece of music into modern music notation. Other individuals
have also attempted to transcribe this music, with differing interpretations.
tablets date back to approximately 1400 B.C. and contain a hymn
to the moon god's wife, Nikal. Remarkably, the tablets also contain
detailed performance instructions for a singer accompanied by
a harpist as well as instructions on how to tune the harp. From
this evidence, Prof. Kilmer and other musicologists have created
realizations of the
| A CD and large, 23-page illustrated
booklet titled: "Sounds of Silence: Recent Discoveries
in Ancient Near Eastern Music." Anne D. Kilmer, Richard
L. Crocker and Robert R. Brown, (copyright 1976), is available
from BellaRomaMusic.com, or by emailing email@example.com.
MIDI arrangement of Prof.
This and the following MIDI files were recorded as Standard
MIDI files, and while the sound of MIDI files will vary according
to the sound card and software in your system, it will at least give you an idea
of some interpretations of this music. Also MIDI files can opened in many music notation software programs for those you you who might want to work with the notation .)
The next MIDI is an arrangement
transcription and arrangement of the Hurrian song.
See Duchesne-Guillemin's "A Hurrian Musical Score from Ugarit:
The Discovery of Mesopotamian Music," Sources from the Ancient
Near East 2/2 (Malibu, CA: Undena publications, 1984). There
was also an accompanying
cassette recording of male voices singing the Hurrian words (Brandeis
call no. DS 59 H8 D88 1984).
The next MIDI is an arrangement of M.
L. West's transcription of the Hurrian song. See
his article, "The Babylonian Musical Notation and the Hurrian
Melodic Texts," Music and Letters 75 [1993-94] 161-179.
Cuneiform notation from the original
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